Traditional Jewish Burial Practices - Chevra Kadisha
Chevra Kadisha- ("holy burial society") - an organization of Jewish men and women who see that the bodies of Jewish people are prepared for burial according to Jewish traditions and are protected from desecration until burial.
Members of the Chevra Kadisha are selected for their character, integrity and personal devotion to Jewish Tradition. They are on call 24 hours a day, to perform a Tahara and to ensure that the laws and traditions of Jewish burial are executed properly. Their greatest concern is the sensitive care, modesty and dignity of the deceased. Men care for men, women care for women, Jew cares for fellow Jew- ensuring the dignity of the body.
Ask your Rabbi, funeral director, or click here to find a local Chevra Kadisha https://www.nasck.org/chevra-kadisha-registry/
Tahara - the traditional preparation
The traditional washing, purification and dressing of the deceased with dignity that is performed by trained members of the Chevra Kadisha. The body is first thoroughly cleansed and then it is ritually purified by immersion in, or a continuous flow of, water from the head over the entire body.
Tachrichim - the burial garments
Shrouds, of white muslin or linen are identical for each Jew- symbolizing equality and purity. A sash (avnet) is wrapped around the clothing and tied in the form of the Hebrew letter "shin," representing one of the names of God.
Aron - burial casket
A coffin constructed of wood, in keeping with the Biblical teaching:"For dust art thou and to the dust thou shalt return" (Genesis 3:19). Soil from Israel may be sprinkled in the casket, which is then closed. There is no viewing of the body and no open casket at the funeral.
Shmira - watching of the remains
Shomrim, or watchers, guard the body from desecration until burial. As a mark of respect to the departed, the deceased is never left alone until after burial. Psalms are traditionally recited by the Shomer (watcher).
Kvurah B'Karka - burial in the ground
Tradition requires that burial must be in the ground, filling the grave completely until a mound is formed. It is a great Mitzvah (act of kindness) to attend the funeral, and to participate in the burial of a fellow Jew.